More Reading: Breakthrough in Argentina; Death without God

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by Neil Godfrey

Sandra, the first legally recognized non-human person
Sandra, the first legally recognized non-human person

One of the books that helped me on my way to atheism was Robert Ardrey’s The Territorial Imperative. That work enabled me to grasp the idea that our sense of morality really does have a biological foundation, that a moral sense is not unique to humans, and our ethical nature can indeed be explained without recourse to God. I have continued to have a fascination for any observations throwing further light on the nature of us all — human and non-human animals.

So I was immediately drawn to Steve Wiggins blogpost reviewing Can Animals Be Moral? by Mark Rowlands. I can recall as child struggling to accept the more learned notion of some scientists that animals have no feelings in the sense that humans do; we must not impute our feelings into their charades. The more I have observed the less able I am to believe that.

Then only days after Wiggins’ review I read that a court in Argentina has reportedly recognized for the first time the reality of “a non-human person”.

Another book that did not interest me personally but that I see is gaining considerable attention on the web is Greta Christina’s Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God. Personally I have no problem with the idea of death as the cessation of everything. But evidently we all have different perspectives on this and Greta’s book does meet a wider interest. And given its electronic version only costs $3 I thought, “what the hell” and have downloaded it for future reference. Now I can find out what all the fuss is about when I have a spare moment.

I see Richard Carrier has also given this one a plug.


(This post is by Neil, not Tim.)


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Neil Godfrey

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4 thoughts on “More Reading: Breakthrough in Argentina; Death without God”

  1. “[A] court in Argentina has reportedly recognized for the first time the reality of “a non-human person”.

    In a good way, that is. SCOTUS (the Supreme Court of the United States) has long recognized the “personhood” of corporations when in reality they are state creatures, and behave more like golems or zombies.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Neil. I’ve been reading about animal person-hood for several years now (some of my older posts also address it). I agree that it changes perspectives when we realize that what is said to be uniquely human is actually very natural and shared by animals. Rowlands’s book was pretty heavy going, but it raises some very important questions. Thanks for stopping by to see my remarks about it!

  3. Re: Wiggins, Rowlands, and Christina:
    Soul (and unique/personal souls) is a religious idea. Atheists are able to get away from that, I foolishly thought.
    There is no soul [“scientifically”].
    There is the possibility that some people might recognize their own experience of [“subjectivity”] as a natural and material construct of their own genetics and socialization.

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